China Strike Force


I’m sorry, but I have to admit that I enjoyed this film - much to my surprise. If I were a Catholic I would perform penance, but since Hong Kong movies are my religion I promise to purge my soul by watching Peking Opera Blues three times and begging Brigitte Lin’s forgiveness. How could this have happened? Will I start wearing tight pants, go into silly dances in public at the drop of a miscue, practice a smug smirk in the mirror and start buying Aaron Kwok cds next? Where will it all end – stalking Aaron around the world, joining his fan club, handing him giant Hello Kitty toys during his concerts? Brigitte, please help me before its too late.
The new genre of Hong Kong films that could be termed “faux action” or “Hollywood wannabees” is a strange breed indeed. After years of having authentically trained martial artists make Hong Kong synonymous with gut wrenching and unbelievable action movies, it seems a peculiar turn to make. The reasons though are simple – an economic need to appeal to a larger audience that has been bamboozled and brainwashed by Hollywood action and special effects over the past ten years, the elevation of the Hong Kong “idol” to the top of the star ladder and the aging and seeming inability to replace the great action actors of the past. This has created a situation in which producers want to fill action roles with pretty pastel boys such as Aaron, Ekin and Eason – fall back on impersonal films that rely on stunts and explosions that emulate Hollywood (but somehow fall dreadfully short most of the time due to budget constraints) – and the need to dumb down the choreography so that the untrained actors can perform it with the aid of wires. For the most part, we are left with an empty egg – perhaps pretty on the outside, but the sustenance and joy has been sucked out in the process.
And though I think most long-term Hong Kong film fans treat these films with complete disdain, there usually are a few of the films in the genre that appeal to us – and they are different ones for different people. For every thousand people who wanted to burn their copy of Gen Y Cops, there would be one person who found it fun – and that same person likely hated Tokyo Raiders in which I was perhaps the one person out of a thousand who liked it. There is no real explanation for it – but every now and then one of these Hollywood clones appeals to us – like a three-legged alley cat getting our affection for some unknown reason.
Here is my own litany of sin: I hate with a passion reserved I thought only for the New York Yankees – Storm Riders, A Man Called Hero, Gen Y Cops, Skyline Cruisers and For Bad Boys Only; mildly enjoyed 2000 AD, Tokyo Raiders, Gen X Cops and Downtown Torpedoes (the film that possibly began this trend?) and actually liked Enter the Eagles, Purple Storm and Conman in Tokyo. This one falls into the mildly enjoyed category – but for a film that stars Aaron, is filled with English dialogue, has a stereotypical rapper gangsta and revels in it’s international appeal – it’s a lot more than I was anticipating.
Why? Because it doesn’t take itself seriously for a second (O.K. maybe for a minute it does). Even Aaron – the man who loves himself more than we ever could – pokes fun at his lover boy image in a couple of scenes and just seems to be having a good time. Everyone looks to be having fun trying to pretend to be action stars – they are working their little hearts out like hamsters on a treadmill and call me crazy – but I have to respect anyone who fights on top of a piece of glass hanging in mid air – some forty floors above the ground – I don’t care if you are more securely wired up than Amy Yip’s million dollar insured breasts. I wouldn’t do it and my guess is neither would you.
What else is good about this film? A solid supporting cast of Ken Lo, Paul Chun Pui and Lau Siu Ming (from all the Chinese Ghost Story films) is given some good screen time. Some beautiful women – from the zow zow women on the catwalk to muppet faced Ruby Lin to set me on fire with gasoline Noriko Fujiwara. I don’t know where this Japanese actress came from, but bring her back for an encore. I expected to see men’s noses bleed every time she got on screen – Coolio’s almost did. If she had any more curves, she would be a Grand Prix racetrack. If her outfits showed any more cleavage she would be a fire hazard, though if she showed any less it would be a crime against humanity. So she may not be ready to take on Lady MacBeth – but Lady MacBeth wasn’t stuck having to utter dialogue like “No one is to touch me” pause “unless I want to be touched” in a foreign language. Lets just say that she gives a fine physical performance.
A quick recap of the plot. Aaron and Wang Lee Hom are two very cool Shanghai cops – a new breed that was trained from Miami Vice episodes. They witness a murder at Ruby’s fashion show and this leads them to a wealthy smuggler, Lau Siu Ming, his nephew, Mark Dacascos (is he Asian?) and their enforcer, Ken Lo. It appears that Mark is doing a drug deal behind his uncle’s back with Coolio “China is just a fat-assed buffet man”. Paul Chun Pui is Ruby’s father and also a cop with connections to Lau. Noriko is a Japanese cop who has infiltrated the gang – and proven her trustworthiness to the bad guys by shedding her clothes in a steam bath – I know I would have believed in Peter Pan at that moment. The boys investigate – action ensues.
This being primarily an action film – I should speak to the action. They try so hard and for actors (Aaron, Coolio and Noriko) that are not trained (well Aaron has certainly had a fair amount of training during his career) to be action stars – they are not terrible – just not very good. Mark and Ken Lo are action stars and show some decent moves. Some of the overall action was interesting – but a lot of it was marred by wirework that made them look to be helium balloons – during a fight between Mark and Aaron, Aaron provides a few aerodynamically impossible moves that had to make you laugh – of course he does have that internal hot air that helped. There is a fair amount of action in the first third, very little in the second third and then the big finale in the final third. The last fight goes on for some 20-minutes and is filled with a number of individual fights and some pretty good stunts such as fighting on a car being lifted by a helicopter – but it is the very final fight on the sheet of glass between Aaron, Coolio and Noriko that is stunning to view – no blue screen to make it look high – they were high with nothing underneath – just being held by wires. The Making of Section showed just how nervous Coolio and Noriko were – Aaron (bless his little heart) was out there dancing on it to entertain the crowd below.

My rating for this film: 6.5



DVD Information:

Distributed by Deltamac.

The transfer is quite good though a tiny bit soft.

Letterboxed

Cantonese and Mandarin - Dolby 5.1. or DTS (I have no idea what this is but my dvd player can't play it)

12 Chapters

The subtitles are Chinese or English.

There is a trailer for this film, but it actually is a new scene that does not appear in the film.

There is a Making of Section that runs 22 minutes - primarily in Cantonese but depending on who is being interviewed there are parts in English and Japanese - but no English subs.

There is a portrait gallery

There are short bios on Stanley Tong, Ruby Lin, Wang Lee Hom, Noriko Fujiwara and Aaron - but for some reason they seem to only be in Chinese - or I could never figure out how to get the English version.